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The Pre-Trial Hearing for Judge Suzanne Wooten was a three-hour-long marathon that started at 10:02 a.m.
The first order of business was an admonishment of Wooten’s attorneys and the State’s Attorneys, Mr. Harry White and Mr. Brian Chandler, for using motions as “press releases”.
Judge Russell stated, “You all know evidence is produced in the courtroom.” Judge Russell was mostly objecting to the release of information from the FBI Report. He said, “Bending the rules is as bad as breaking them.” The Judge took special notice of a release of information by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Information Officer identified as Mr. Kelly. Mr. Harry White argued the release did not violate Judge Russell’s protective/restrictive order on speaking with media because information was produced in open court. Judge Russell warned Mr. White that he would be “the one in the pokey” if any information was released by any party at the OAG that was in violation of his order. Judge Russell’s point was well taken by Mr. White who stated he would immediately call OAG and tell them any calls requesting information about the Wooten case would be answered with “No Comment.”
Judge Suzanne Wooten
DA Greg Willis
Next, Assistant District Attorneys, John Shomburger and John Rolater fronted District Attorney Greg Willis’ Motion for the Appointment of a New, Impartial and Disinterested Attorney Pro Tem. There was discussion concerning the need for the presentation of evidence to support Mr. Willis’ motion to remove Mr. White and Mr. Chandler from the case. It was concluded that no evidence was necessary as the issue was simply a matter of law.
Judge Russell asked Mr. Shomburger if he granted the motion if there was any legal reason for him to not simply re-appoint Mr. White and Mr. Chandler. Mr. Shomburger knew of none.
Judge Russell asked Mr. White if the State wanted to remain on the case. Mr. White responded he did not know if the State wished to remain on in case. When Judge Russell asked if it was the intent of the District Attorney to take control of the case and then immediately disqualify himself and request the appointment of a new Attorney pro tem, Mr. Shomburger said, “Yes.”
Judge Russell stated Mr. Willis’s Motion,“a subterfuge to get rid of the OAG.” and he denied the motion.
Assistant Attorney General Adrienne McFarland?, the supervisor of Mr. White and Mr. Chandler, signed the State’s Response to the District Attorney’s Motion for the Appointment of a New, Impartial and Disinterested Attorney Pro Tem.
The issue was well researched by Judge Russell who seemed aware that his denial of Willis’ motion could result in a mandamus action by Mr. Willis. Had District Attorney Willis actually requested to take control of the case and left out his request to immediately disqualify himself, he would most likely be in control of the case, but he did not request control. A Mandamus Review would delay the Wooten trial well into 2012.
Appeals courts in every case have reversed the denial of a request to rescind the recusal of the former District Attorney when there was no conflict of interest. Only Mr. Willis’ cites to law support his position. In effect, Mr. Willis asked for relief that he never requested. A mandamus request will effectively work as a Motion for Continuance for Judge Wooten, but perhaps not for the other defendants.
When Mr. Willis’s motion was denied, Judge Russell invited Mr. Willis and his colleagues to stay if they wished. Immediately District Attorney Willis left the court with five Assistant District Attorneys in tow.
Judge Russell next considered Judge Wooten’s Defendant’s’ Motion to Disqualify The Texas attorney General’s Office as “District Attorney Pro Tem” presented by Judge Wooten’s attorney, Peter Schulte. During this discussion Mr. White leaned over and whispered to Mr. Chandler, “Go get him.” Mr. Chandler left and shortly returned, asked Mr. White for his cell phone and left again. Mr. Chandler returned with FBI Special Agent Corey Ware who took a seat in the gallery.
There was a lengthy discussion concerning a Brady Rule violation in the failure of the OAG to provide the full FBI report to Wooten’s defense team. Judge Russell stated his research showed no case of any pre-conviction violation of the Brady Rule. Every example he found was post conviction and that any exculpatory evidence needed to be in Judge Russell’s words, “a game changer.”
Mr. Schulte stated Special Agent Ware told him there was exculpatory evidence in the 38 pages Mr. White had originally failed to provide to Wooten’s lawyers. Mr. Schulte also stated that Mr. Ware said if he knew then what he knows now, he would have never closed the investigation.
Judge Russell spent five minutes silently reviewing the Wooten motion.
At 11:00 a.m. Special Agent Ware was called to the witness stand and sworn in. Ware testified the investigation of Judge Wooten began in March 2008 when Judge Charles Sandoval went to former District Attorney John Roach and complained, in Mr. Ware’s words, “There was no way she (Wooten) could have paid for these (radio) ads based on her (campaign) finances.”
Mr. Ware also testified why the case was turned over to the OAG. Ware stated he was told Jill Willis and Suzanne Wooten were “good friends” and if Willis was elected the case “may go away” if not transferred to the OAG. Mr. Ware answered, “Yes, I would have closed the case” even knowing then what he knows today.
Mr. White asked Mr. Ware, “Did you ever tell Mr. Schulte there was “exculpatory evidence” in the 38 pages not provided to Wooten’s attorneys. Mr. Ware responded, “No.” Ware was then dismissed from the witness stand.
Special Agent Ware directly contradicted Mr. Schulte’s major claims made in the motion.
Judge Russell speaks to Mr. Schulte, “I looked, and looked, and looked; I frankly think you are missing the boat on this issue.” Judge Russell restates that Brady violations are after a trial, “you and your client started the investigation. How could you not know about the FBI investigation?” When asked for a citation to law to support his position, Mr. Schulte stated, “There was no case exactly on point.”
Judge Russell asked, “what’s the harm? It’s not as if you were oblivious of the investigation, now you have all of those pages.” Judge Russell finds no actual harm or actual prejudice to Judge Wooten. He then asked if Mr. Schulte or Mr. White will be called to testify and both answered, “no.”
Judge Russell then denied the Wooten motion.
Another issue was Wooten’s Supplemental Objection of September 30th. Wooten wins this one as Judge Russell orders Mr. White to search through the now 20,000 pages of evidence, find and provide Wooten any witness statements or reports. Mr. White protested he other trial cases pending and would not be able to review the evidence until November
Judge Russell then says, “You have a large office and get someone to do it, co-counsel or you supervisor.”
David Cary’s new lawyers made their first appearance in the case and stated, “They were new on the case” and requested time to prepare to which Judge Russell stated, “No more pre-trail hearings between now and November 7th even if the Wooten trial doesn’t go first.
In closing Judge Russell stated, a trial is “still set for November the 7th at 9:00 a.m.”
The judge made it clear that someone is going to trial next month and Judge Russell doesn’t care who it is.
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE AS "DISTRICT ATTORNEY PRO TEM", Peter Schulte - dated August 22, 2011
DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S MOTION FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF A NEW, IMPARTIAL AND DISINTERESTED ATTORNEY PRO TEM, Greg Willis - dated August 29, 2011
MOTION TO QUASH, Peter Schulte - September 15, 2011
DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S REPLY TO THE STATE'S RESPONSE TO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S MOTION FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF A NEW, IMPARTIAL AND DISINTERESTED ATTORNEY PRO TEM - September 23, 2011
APPLICATIONS FOR SUBPOENAS (State's list of witnesses), September 26, 2011
BTW, I heard that the AG's office didn't Oppose DA Willis' motion... and that White said they had no desire to stay on this case... But that Judge denied the Motion anyway. That's kind of shocking even to a non-lawyer like me!
I also heard that Judge made a comment like... "this case has been through two grand juries so it must be legitimate..." Um, has he already made his mind up about this case without seeing any of the facts? WOW. That Judge must forget that a ham sandwich can be indicted when you have prosecutors who don't give a grand jury the whole story.
What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? I thought I remember that from my high school civics class???
The judge's statement, if he made it, "this case has been through two grand juries so it must be legitimate", means that two grand juries found the evidence compelling enough to file charges and go to trial - period. IF he said something like that it would have been in response to Wooten's Motion to Quash, which he denied. NOBODY thought the motion to quash would get anywhere due to the voluminous amounts of evidence supporting the charges, it was simply a formality.
So far Judge Russell has been impressive. He does not take any shenanigans from either side, he shows up in court prepared and ready, having read up on all of the days pertinent issues and motions. Justice in Collin County may actually happen this time.
I want to say thank you to John and this site for posting all of the pertinent documents that have been made public record. For those citizens interested it's such a valuable service you are providing. I look forward to your coverage during the trial, which really really needs to start on November 7th. Wooten will show her hand here, if she truly wants a speedy trial she'll take that 11/7 trial date and go with it. If she's been delaying all along as it has appeared, then she will indeed file a Mandamus request. In which case the next up to bat will be Stacey Cary which is just dandy. Whichever, whomever - just get this case moving forward 11/7.
Your own bias is striking in this case which is SAD. Bless your heart.
According to attorneys in attendance at the last hearing, the ag said several times that they had "NO DESIRE" to remain and they did not oppose the Willis motion. They even said they agreed with Willis' legal reasoning. They just would not ask to be removed.
Russell has been far from impressive. He has instead shown that he favors the prosecutor on almost every ruling he has made, including giving them time after the hearing to respond to the motion to quash that was to be taken up that day. That motion was not ruled on. Go back and look at who has made the delays and it has been the ag on every single occasion because they were not prepared and wanted to dictate every aspect of every hearing, they even wanted a 30-day stay during the last hearing "in case someone files a mandamus". From my understanding, no one mentioned mandamus except for ag and Russell.
How in the world are Russell's comments about the Grand Jury proceedings not judicial misconduct. And, boy should people be afraid if he thinks because someone is accused of something, they are guilty! Not fair or impartial. When is his next election?
Please re-read the article. Harry White took NO POSITION on Mr. Willis' motion. It was as Mr. White stated, a mater of law. Mr. White stated, he "didn't know if the state wanted to remain on the case." That's a quote. Never once did he say the state had no desire to stay on the case. Don't beleive me ... then buy the transcript and read it for yourself. The count down to Mr. Willis' mandamus has begun... perhaps November the 1st?
@Colon, nothing I said was a revelation, read the documents listed above, or just read the "STATE'S RESPONSE TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE AS "DISTRICT ATTORNEY PRO TEM" - September 21, 2011", they vigorously defended their right to prosecute this case. Read "STATE'S RESPOND TO DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S MOTION FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF A NEW, IMPARTIAL, AND DISINTEREST ATTORNEY PRO TEM - September 21, 2011" response as well. It soundly explains who actually has a conflict of interest, multiple conflicts really, and that would be DA Willis. I can't imagine anyone reading this, knowing the facts of the conflict and not coming away thinking it's subterfuge at it's most blatant.
If Ms. Wooten truly wants a speedy trial, is innocent and ready to get the evidence out and clear her name, she'll stop with this fight for a new prosecuter and show up in court November 7. If not it just shows what many of us feel has been the truth all along, she wants this delayed as long as possible, and how nice that as long as she delays it she gets her $12,000 paycheck every month.
I called and spoke again with an attendee of this hearing, the most impartial person I speak with. They saw no partiality either way, he did a bit of butt chewing on both sides. He said nothing prejudical, he certainly didn't imply his feelings on guilt or innocence, to think he did or would is complete hogwash. It looks like an actual impartial Judge is presiding in a Collin County courtroom and for that we should feel relief. He doesn't even have a spouse or a kid or an in-law that is a judge, DA, clerk or practicing attorney in the county! An anomaly up there it would seem.
@Visitor - Do I seriously have to explain why I use the word "Colon" to describe Collin County?
The Observer notes:
Neither you nor I know who are the commentators... all you do is insulting each other with wild allegations. Really, you guys can not better.
Please argue the issues, not each other.
What concerns me are the facts surrounding Mr. Willis and his desire to interject himself into this case.
As I read it, he had the opportunity to take over the case when the Judge asked him if he wanted to take it over. He declined. This was March. I assume he declined to take the case is because of his close and personal relationship he and his wife have with Judge Wooten. This is substantiated by his desire to remove the AG from the case but recuse his office.
He waited to jump in the case after his wife did not get what she wanted from the AG or the judge. What she wanted is to have her subpoena quashed so she would not have to testify to facts she knows about her good friend Suzanne Wooten. In comes hubby-DA to save the day! And while he's at it, they can get the AG off the back of Judge Wooten, which Judge Wooten has been trying to do for years.
Unfortunately for Collin County justice DA Willis files a wacky Motion for the AG to be removed, his office to be recused and another prosecutor to be assigned. He joined his good friend Judge Wooten because she had filed the same motion.
I am disappointed in Greg Willis letting his wife's situation, his friend's problems and his political position get in the way of the oath of office he took.
The Observer guesses...
that you are wrong. Everyone in the previous DA Office, and half the local bar was aware of the FBI investigation.
The AG's tactics are to make the defendants look bad by filing motions that leak allegations without evidence.
Clearly, the Collin County Courts are out of control, as always.
Where does Steve Spencer fall into play with this absurd case?
It's interesting that Colon County has wasted their cash resources for many years trying to prosecute Wooten, the Carey's and Spencer simply because Sandoval lost his post. The people of Colon County spoke on election day. Right?
I do hope that my friends mentioned above are well and happy.
Peace to all of you!
The Observer Comments:
Why are you beating a dead horse? You were a close employee of the former District Attorney, are you still holding a grudge?
You are playing the same game that Harry White like to write half stories to attack.
Your story of Greg Willis is true, but only the half story. The Grand Jury not only no billed Mr. Willis, but sent a report of the Willis investigation writing:
Anyway, don't know much about the law, but know a lot about my rights as an American! For a Judge to influence the conduct of an attorney representing a defendent AT THE EXPENSE OF THE DEFENDENT's RIGHT TO A FAIR AND IMPARTIAL TRIAL is corruption, plain and simple! I've never been a defendent, but that's scary stuff to me!
Now, you need to correct me if I've got this wrong, but I understand the situation as this (in plain language - not legalese): Judge Greg Willis, under pressure to improve the "stats" reflecting his performance as a judge, told defense attorneys (I presume public defenders) that he would pay them at the rate used for going to trial, rather than at the lower rate used for a plea bargain, if they would convince their client to take a plea bargain and move their case through the system quickly. That sounds pretty efficient, huh? Result: the Judge closes more cases in his court; the defense attorney makes more money than the process normally allows; the defendent - guilty or not, we'll never know - gets advice tainted by a corrupt agreement/understanding between the judge and the defense attorney.
This may all be legal, but does it sound like the America you want to live in? You want a judge "bribing" your defense attorney to "move your case quickly through the system" without the opportunity to convince a jury that you're innocent? Haven't we learned anything from the venerable Henry Wade - who was renowned for moving cases efficiently and effectively thru the Dallas County Courthouse - many of those cases now found to have convicted innocent, poor defendents. I'm not a flaming liberal, but that's just not right!
Reminds me of the Shoeless Joe Jackson legend. Remember the "Say it ain't so, Joe." plea from the kiddos? Jackson replied "Yes, kid, I'm afraid it is." A Chicago jury acquitted them. The Commissioner of Baseball banned them from playing, saying that baseball's need to clean up its image took precedence over legal judgments. Now, that's a refreshing thought, huh?
I guess I should have simply asked what the Grand Jury was talking about when they stated "While Judge Greg Willis may have run his court in a manner that is different than another judge may run theirs, this is not a crime and should not be viewed as one".
On the other hand, this is really beating that dead horse, isn't it?
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